Winter Tigers 2018 - Part Two

To catch up on Part One of this blog, click here.

Our trip so far had been mainly focussed on Krishna and her adolescent cubs but I had never actually had a clear view of Krishna herself. I’d heard so much about her and her famous hunting skills and was really, really hoping to see her up close.

We’d had another tricky morning, spent looping Zone 4, searching for any sign of tigers. It was getting towards the heat of midday and we decided to park in the shade for a break. Out of nowhere, without a care in the world, came Krishna…

…and what a beautiful cat she is! Andy had told us that Krishna, whilst undoubtedly stunning, was a bit of a nightmare to photograph - she never looked at you and very rarely had her eyes wide open when walking, probably because of all the dust about at this time of year. Fingers crossed we got lucky in that regard.

She continued to amble up the forest road towards us, so we moved the jeep to a respectful distance and watched. Unbelievably, she decided to sit down, in a very, very rare, almost dog-like pose, perfectly framed under an archway of trees.

After a quick scan, and then dismissal, of a small group of Spotted deer, she continued on her way.

And that, was that. Krishna had finally appeared and we all left for home on a high.

That wave carried us through to the next day but as the hours passed by, we saw no tigers. Ten hours or so of constant searching and nothing. We were about to leave the park for the day and then one of Krishna’s cubs appeared, out of the tree line, heading for the rocky road.

It was distant but the light was beautiful and the colour of the trees in the rocky valley really added to the frame. Another tiger sighting in the bag!

After two very difficult days, we expected that to continue but Ranthambhore is always full of surprises. Within a few minutes of being into Zone 4 the next morning, we found Krishna again, on her morning patrol.

It was a brief but fantastic start to the day. Little did we know what we were about to come across later…

The young male was back! Some eagle-eyed spotting found him having a snooze, almost completely covered by a nearby bush. Thankfully he decided to have a stretch and move again to a more shady spot, where we were treated to the most incredible views…and we were the only vehicles to witness the encounter. A truly magical few minutes were spent with him. He was totally unconcerned by our presence and we left him snoozing the day away. A totally incredible experience and something I will never forget.

Wow! It’s sad to think that there is a fairly strong chance that I will probably not see him again, on future trips to the park. Young males have a very tough time ahead of them at this age. Soon instinct would drive him to begin to mark his territory and the resident adult male would be having none of that. He will almost certainly be given his marching orders and this will likely mean him having to move out of the tourist zones of the park. Fingers crossed he can establish a territory of his own and be successful and long-lived.

It seems fitting that we finish with Krishna and the final treat she gave us, at the end of the trip. It was our last decent tiger sighting - we did get a glimpse of Arrowhead on the last day but there were no photo ops - we were lucky enough to come across her again, as she tirelessly continued the patrol of her lands, on the constant search for food to feed her ever-growing cubs. She’s an incredible mother and like Noor, has made a huge impression on me. I hope to see her again soon.

In this last picture you get an idea of how close the tigers come to the vehicles. I think everyone’s first question is, ‘aren’t you scared?!’ To be honest, it has never crossed my mind - you are in constant awe of these truly remarkable animals and it is such a monumental privilege to be allowed into their wild world, in as special a place as Ranthambhore. A place where, for all of the perils tigers face in the world, their numbers are on the increase and conservation success is being achieved.

A trip to Ranthambhore is the whole package; the habitats, the animals and the amazing people you get to meet - it’s somewhere I will hopefully continue to visit for a long time to come.

Tiger conservation is a constant effort, on a global scale. Six tiger subspecies out of nine now survive - Bengal, Amur, Sumatran, Indochinese, South China & Malayan. All of these subspecies are subject to unrelenting threats, not just from poaching but from habitat loss and consequentially, their interactions with ever-growing human populations. As these already dense human populations continue to increase at an unprecedented rate, the tiger has lost 93% of its range in the last 100 years.

In recent years, great strides have been taken to turn the tide but much, much more needs to be done to secure the tiger’s survival. They are not just a stunningly beautiful animal, revered throughout history for their strength and grace but they are the epitome of a Keystone Species, utterly crucial for the integrity of the ecosystems in which they live. As the top predators, they keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. In short, when tigers thrive, the whole ecosystem thrives. That ecosystem would collapse as we know it, without their being part of it. We ourselves rely on the world’s ecosystems to survive and so we owe it to ourselves to share awareness of the great ecological problems the world currently faces and to help where we possibly can.

To help conserve wild tigers, you can find more information below: